The 'fellow' in question was my oldest maternal uncle, and this past month marked a year that he has been gone. His last name was Jolly, and kindness, love and wit shone from his eyes as well as his through his actions. As fate would have it, at the beginning of this year one of my aunts passed, followed by her husband a mere two weeks later. The loss of three Jollys within a year has left a wide, gaping hole in our family's fabric. The Jolly family embodied hospitality and an inclusiveness of people the likes of which we will probably never see again.
It was extraordinary: people would come for a meal, and stay for a month. Every hurting, sad, temporarily lost child has, at one point or another, taken refuge in the Jolly household for months even when their families were just one city over. We still marvel at the capacity of a two room apartment to expand and accommodate as many people as it did. How my aunts managed to feed three meals to as many as fifteen people on a daily basis out of a kitchen that is smaller than most closets still baffles me.
But what I remember most is the joy. So much laughter that we ended up with aching sides most days. Silly games and pointless arguments. Bollywood music both new and classic demanded choreographed dances that the older cousins taught, and we younger cousins obliged. Beautiful, clear voices singing as often as they could. It was magical. Sometimes I think that it's just the hazy shimmer of a lost time that lends that sheen to my memories. And then I talk to another cousin, or the friend of a cousin thrice-removed, and we all remember it the same way, because that is how it was.
Which means that it is possible to have limited resources, and still spread unlimited joy. What it looks like to be so completely free of judgement that the five children who had the unbelievable good fortune to be raised in that home are the most loving, generous, kind-hearted and joyful people I know. We all, in some way, carry the Jolly legacy because we were impacted by it, and loved unconditionally. With Jolly Good Jams, we hope that you will spread a little joy, a little love and a little hope of your own each day. We could all use some of that, especially right now.
So asked a song that was sung by a band with the folksy name of 'A Lovin' Spoonful'. If you're familiar with it, you're probably humming the tune in your head right now. The lyrics are sweet, and conjure up images of a girl in bell bottoms with her center-parted hair swinging down to her hips, ubiquitous daisy tucked behind one ear.
But it is March, and whether you believe in it or not, there is a little magic in the air. And not just because of the funny little green man at the end of the rainbow, who should rightly have a beer keg next to him instead of a pot of gold, given the manner in which St. Patrick's Day is celebrated.
For me the magic is in the promise the air holds. Winter is almost definitely past, and thanks to unseasonably warm temperatures a couple of weeks ago, the dogwoods are blooming. The sight that makes me the happiest, though is when the forsythia bursts forth in riotous bloom. Whether because it's yellow, or because it seems to bloom overnight, catching sight of forsythia against the blue sky lifts my spirits immediately.
I, of course, also deal with magic of a different kind each day. For what is baking but alchemy - a little bit of chemistry, and a whole lot of magic - that transforms ordinary ingredients into luscious and decadent desserts?
Then, there is magic of a different sort. Of watching children who just yesterday were missing teeth and chasing butterflies, and now are getting ready to chase their dreams. Some of them across state lines, and some halfway across the world. Where does it come from, this confidence, this yearning to leave and explore? Maybe it's just a wish, but I like to think it comes from sitting in our laps, with a bear tucked under their arm, eyes wide as we read them fairytales of lands far, far away. Of brave boys and girls who survived turbulent seas and fierce dragons so they could reach the shore and fulfill their destiny.
But, there is such a thing as 'mama magic' in our home, with which I would 'lock' the doors and windows of my daughter's room each night by sprinkling imaginary fairy dust. And that mama magic will surely keep them close, and keep them coming back when they can. Or maybe it's just my chocolate chip cookies that will bring them home . Either way, I'll take it.
Wife, mother, baker, jam maker, hug dispenser, reader.